2016-September: Mediterranean Cruise on Norwegian Spirit

2016-September: Mediterranean Cruise on Norwegian Spirit

The Norwegian Spirit was the oldest and smallest cruise ship we had ever been on. It carries just slightly less that 2,000 passengers. We chose this ship strictly because of the incredible itenerary. The cruise itself came out to less than $100 per person per day which included food, cabin and entertainment on the ship. The food in the main restaurants was about the same as we have had on other cruises. There were less alternatives, though, than what we are used to. I am always a little paranoid of the buffet. I much prefer the restaurants where we are served our food by waiters. We were given a complimentary dinner at one of their specialty restaurants, Cagney’s, and that was quite good. Personally, Royal Caribbean with its large, new, modern ships with multiple entertainment venues and restaurants has everybody else beat. Carnival was fun until we discovered Royal Caribbean. The only time I have ever gotten sick has been on a Princess ship so not one of my favorites. MSC is the worst. I am very careful with cabin selection as I am a light sleeper but someone totally missed the problems with cabin 10577! Loud booming noises kept us awake. Although they had said the ship was full and they had no empty cabins, they found 4577 after hearing me complain a few times. When the sink fell off the wall in that cabin, they found 8515. Except for the amazing itenerary, I would probably not choose Norwegian Cruise Lines again.
 

We embarked on the Norwegian Spirit in Barcelona. We had visited Barcelona in 2010 and loved it and were happy to return. On our first day, we had visited Sitges again. On our second day in Barcelona, we took the hop on, hop off tour. It was about 90 degrees and a bit sweltering at times.
 
 
 Our first stop was Provence, France. We got off the ship and wandered around the city. The next day we We took a ship excursion to Pisa and Florence. It took about an hour to get to Pisa, where we spent an hour or so and then it took another hour or so to get to Florence. Milton and I had been to Florence before and just wandered around on our own. We love these Italian cities.
 
 
 The next day we took a train on our own from the port into Rome and spent the day on a hop on- hop off tour.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUn2C8defQw
 
I had wanted to return to Pompeii since my first visit there in 1974. About four years before that was the first time I had ever heard of Pompeii, when a Licensed Psychiatric Technician in charge of the Psychiatric unit I worked on had said that Pompeii was destroyed by God because they worshipped the phallus and allowed homosexuality. At that time, I still had one foot in the closet. I knew the LPT was a crazy fundamentalist but when I discovered that one could actually visit the ruins of Pompeii, I was eager to do that on my first trip to Europe. On that visit, I remember seeing more of the “erotic” Pompeii which was very interesting. On this trip in 2016, I was surprised that we saw none of the “erotic” Pompeii and visitors would have no clue it existed if not for the souvenir books right out side the site. Regardless, we did enjoy this visit despite a little sprinkle of rain initially.
 
 
This is 1 minute of our visit to Mykonos, Greece in the summer of 2016. It was a beautiful day. We wanted to visit the “gay beach” while there and somebody said that it was “Super Paradise” but I think they must have been wrong. We didn’t really see many gay people at Super Paradise and paid an enormous amount to use the Jackie O beach chairs. We still enjoyed our day, though.
 
 

We have been on multiple cruises over the years including Carnival Ships, Royal Caribbean Ships, an MSC ship and a Princess ship. Our favorite cruise line at this point is Royal Caribbean as they just seem to do most everything just a little bit better than the others. The reason we chose the Norwegian Spirit for this cruise was all about the itinerary, though. We searched through all the different Mediterranean cruise itinerary’s and could not find any others that came close to the itinerary the Norwegian Spirit offered for the price. Although we had been to many of the itinerary cities previously by rail and stayed in hotels, we wanted to revisit another time with the advantages the cruising offers. We like the idea of just unpacking one time rather than packing and unpacking and dragging suitcases across European cobblestones. 

The cabin: 

I am always careful about cabin selection, choosing cabins midship with the least amount of movement and always making sure that we are not near any noisy public areas on the ship as I am a light sleeper. I always look at the deck plans and look for a room that has guest rooms above and below, rather than discos, restaurants, theaters, pools or casinos. When I looked at the deck plans for the Norwegian Spirit, I found a room that seemed to meet our requirements but when I called, the representative told me that the cabin I had selected was not available but cabin 10577 would be similar and be a quite room. Sadly, this was not the case. I would recommend that no one consider cabin 10577. As it turns out, it is actually below what is labeled, the “Tivoli Pool Room.” I don’t know what takes place in the “Tivoli Pool Room” but whatever it is, it is very noisy. There are loud booms that take place at intervals all hours of the day and night that kept me awake through the second night on board (I think we were so exhausted the first night that we slept through all the noise). At other times, it sounds like someone walking across an uncarpeted floor above. I was at guest services that second night around midnight to complain. They took note of my complaint but nothing else happened at that point. I returned to guest services at about 6 am complaining of not having been able to sleep all night due to the booming noises. These booms are so loud that ear plugs didn’t help. They took note again. A few hours later, I complained again and finally, at that point, they offered us another room, 4577. I checked it out and even though it was a bit of a downgrade in some ways, it WAS much quieter and that was the most important thing to me at that point. During the move,I was given the explanation that the noise from the Tivoli Pool Room has to do with water pressure changes when the Tivoli pool is refilled. I was told that they don’t usually move someone to another cabin because of it but just adjust the water pressure but because they had another cabin available, they decided to offer it. (In line at guest services, earlier, I had heard them say to someone else that it was a full ship and that there were no empty cabins- apparently they just tell people this even when there are empty cabins). 

Regardless, we slept well in cabin 4577 for most of the cruise, until one morning we woke up and the entire sink vanity unit was coming off the wall!! We were told by guest services that we would need to move to yet another room on deck 8. Three cabins in one cruise??? This meant that we had to unpack and pack three times on this cruise!!! The main thing we love about cruises is NOT having to unpack and pack while traveling!! I do want to say that guest services did give us a complimentary bottle of their “house merlot” and chocolate covered strawberries three times during the cruise and one complimentary dinner at Cagney’s Steak House specialty restaurant but I would have gladly exchanged those things for just one problem free cabin for the entire cruise!! The Norwegian Spirit IS an old ship! It has been refurbished and does look nice on the surface for the most part but occasionally it’s age does show through and problems arise. This was the oldest and the smallest cruise ship that we had ever been on. Chairs were a bit worn. 

Onboard Experience

One of the most objectionable things about the ship is they appear to have more areas for cigarette smoking than any other cruise we have been on. This is fine if you are a smoker but we haven’t smoked for years. You often smell cigarette smoke in non-smoking areas as the smoke just drifts through the ship at times. Even though they say there is no smoking in the cabins, in the bathrooms above the toilet paper rolls, there are, what appear to be, ashtrays!!! 

The passengers on the NCL Spirit tend to be a little older than other ships we have been on. Maybe it was because we were sailing in September and most kids are back in school at that time, but we saw probably less than 10 children the entire 12 days of the cruise and less than 5 teenagers as well. This was not a cruise for kids, certainly, in the way that Carnival and Royal Caribbean are. That is not necessarily a negative for us because we don’t have kids but I have traveled with nieces and nephews on other cruises and know they would not have enjoyed the experience on the Spirit. 

 One thing I did notice that I did not like at all was that several times, I saw parents with small children less than two years old in the whirlpools by the Tivoli pool. These children appeared too young to be toilet trained or even out of diapers. There was a posting near each whirlpool that said in English that children must be toilet trained and out of diapers but either these parents did not read the guidelines, didn’t understand English or just didn’t care. Nobody said anything to them about it o apparently this policy is not strictly enforced. 

Entertainment- Recreation

The Spirit’s Stardust theater was nice but the shows were a little lackluster and repetitive. After having been on Royal Caribbean ships with their full Broadway productions, ice shows, water shows and multiple entertainment venues with a wide array of entertainers, all other cruise ships pale in comparison. I would say that NCL is probably a step below Carnival but a step above MSC as far as entertainment venues. The Galaxy of the Stars was the alternative to the Stardust Theater as an entertainment venue but was sometimes too small for the number of passengers that would show up there. 

The first night we attended a show in the Stardust, many passengers seemed delighted with the balloons provided that they were bouncing through the theater. It reminded me of a convalescent home as most of these passengers seemed in their late senior years. Balloons also felt a little condescending as entertainment. 

I counted 12 dancers with several of those doing double duty as singers. There was also a singing quartet that did some nice harmonies. There was a magician and his assistant. There was a juggler. In other venues on the ship, they had a couple of different small bands. There were also a couple of “lounge” singers that played at a piano bar style venue open to the ‘atrium” in the center of the ship. 

Dining

I thought the food was pretty mediocre. The main dining room, Windows, felt a little chaotic to me. We always wanted a table for two but the ones in Windows are so close to the neighboring tables, it never felt like a table for two. They also totally messed up my order for a bone in rib eye steak that I was expected to pay over $20 more for. They brought me this little piece of meat that was way over done. I did complain and did get a rib eye but it was mostly fat and gristle. 

The Garden Room was a little more comfortable and relaxed. We ate at Shogun one night but the menu was pretty limited. We had snacks at Blue Lagoon Cafe several times. This was the first cruse ship we were on that didn’t have a place to pick up a slice of pizza at night. It wasn’t until almost the last day that we even noticed the “Bier Garten Grill” and we never did eat there. We usually had breakfast at Raffles. I really don’t like buffets but would look for those things not contaminated by being handled by hundreds of passengers. Although they put morning waffles in a tray that get pretty well picked over with passengers laying serving spoons on top of them, if you ask the person making the waffles for a “hot one,” you can get a waffle that is still warm and hasn’t been handled by others or touched by the handles of the tongs. The dirtiest thing in a buffet is the serving spoons and tongs that are handled by the passengers. Even though passengers are encouraged to use a sanitizer upon entering the buffet, there is no real proof that those sanitizers are effective and as soon as someone sneezed or coughs into their hand, the sanitizer is useless. The safest thing on a cruise is to always avoid any self service. If you do use the self service tongs or spoons, you should then use the sanitizer at that point since they have been handled by so many others. I won’t eat anything where the tongs or serving spoons have been laid across the food. Overall, I think Royal Caribbean offers the most alternatives to buffet food. 

I also didn’t care for the “washy-washy” you hear every time you walk into the buffet. It is just obnoxious. 

This was the first cruise we have been on where they charge a “service charge” for room service!!!

The only specialty restaurant we ate in was Cagney’s and that was complimentary. The rib eye that I received there was quite good. This was probably the best dinner we had on the entire cruise. 

Embarkation and Debarkation

Embarkation went smoothly. I thought debarkation was a little chaotic. We only had carry on luggage and had an early flight. Nobody was allowed to leave the ship before 8am. I would recommend that one not get an early flight out of Venice as the ship does not arrive in Venice until 10:30pm!!! When we first booked the cruise, we were supposed to get into Venice around 2pm which would have given us an entire day and night there. After they dropped the stops in Turkey, they changed the time for arrival in Venice to 10:30pm!!! We were really disappointed in the short time we had to see Venice- just a couple of hours. And then we had to get up early to disembark!!! Terrible. 

Public Rooms

Public rooms were nice enough. 

Value for Money

With this Mediterranean cruise, it was all about the itinerary. I would not choose the Norwegian Spirit for any other reason than the itinerary. We left out of Barcelona. Tulon, France was okay. Our excursions to Pisa and Florence was satisfactory. We took the train to Rome on our own and had plenty of time to do what we wanted to do there and saved a lot of money on the ships excursions. The Pompeii excursion was okay but I had been to Pompeii previously and my tour on that trip included some of the more “adult” paintings in Pompeii. I didn’t see any children on our excursion so not sure why they don’t include a more rounded excursion or at least offer one for adults. In Mykonos, we just made our own way to the beach for a beach day and walked around on our own back in town. When we docked in Pirseus, Greece, we just took the train on our own to the Plaka and, again, saved on the ships excursions. Kotor, Montenegro and Dubrovnik, Croatia were added after stops in Turkey were cancelled due to instability there. I was very impressed with Dubrovnik. Still, overall, even with all the problems with the Spirit, I still believe this cruise was a pretty good value for us because of the itinerary. 

 

 
 
 

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